Category Archives: racing

Turn it up to 11!

I love this clip from Spinal Tap. Sometimes in life (or racing) you just need to take it up a notch. Could you “adjust” and make your “10” more powerful – sure you could. However, there are times when you need to break the rules and take it up to “11”.

Memorial Weekend Race Report – We beat the train!

Grant at the Stockyards

Memorial Weekend is a hotbed for racing in DFW with 3 crits races in the area. Last year I did all 3 races as a Cat 5 (in an effort to get my 10 races and Cat-up). This year my plan was to race on Saturday at the Glickman in Dallas and Monday for the State Championship here in Fort Worth. Moritz is also one of the organizers of the State Championship, so I planned on working the event for a couple hours as well.

Saturday’s course was a technical crit with a 1/3 mile+ downhill, followed by a 180 degree turn and then a 1/3 mile+ climb to the finish line. I didn’t have any real goals for the race since I haven’t been training since my crash (I’ve been riding a lot, but haven’t done any intervals or real intensity work). Unfortunately, on the 2nd or 3rd lap I got caught behind a crash at the bottom of the hill (on the 180). So I spent the next lap or so chasing the pack. I eventually caught them at the top of the hill, only to lose them in the technical section and downhill, then I would catch back on just as we crested the hill. After a few laps of this my legs started cramping and I pulled out. It’s not in my nature to quit and I could have “time trialed” it solo for the next 30 minutes, but something just didn’t feel right. Pulling out might have been the right move since there were two crashed on the last lap (one on the downhill and one at the finish). Two of my teammates were in the crash on the downhill. One teammate went down pretty hard and has some serious road rash, but the more “painful” part for him is that he broke his frame. Crashing sucks, but it really sucks when you know it costs you thousands of dollars in damage.

Sunday I left early for a long ride with Anthony. Planned on doing a nice 4 hour endurance ride. About 10 miles in I was pseduo-trackstanding at a stop light when I fell over (first time in over a year) and bent my deraileur hanger (to the point that I can’t shift into any of my lower gears). So we rode back to my house and I picked up my cyclocross bike. Between my performance on Saturday, a stupid mistake on Sunday and the culmulative effect of having a newborn (two months of crazy sleep schedules, feedings, etc.) it was starting to feel like a pretty crappy Memorial Weekend.

So with my bike out of commission, I was out for Monday’s race. I also decided that I couldn’t leave Jess alone with both kids again (to go help work the event), but I was able to convince Grant to come with me for a bike ride. Getting Grant to ride with me takes a lot of pleading (he never wants to come initially), but when he does come, we always have a great time. When Grant and I ride, we do two things:

1. Look for bats under bridges. After seeing a TV show about the Congress Ave. Bridge in Austin, Grant is convinced there are bats under every bridge.

2. We chase the train. The area we live in (Near TCU and Colonial) has lots of train tracks, many of them running parralel to the Trinity Trail. There is also a small train that runs through Trinity Park near the zoo. Whenever we hear a whistle, we pretend to “catch the train”.

I figured we would be lucky to ride for an hour or so before Grant got bored. We headed to the Stockyards and saw the cows and rode down Exchange Ave. Then we headed NW on the Trinity Trail towards Carswell Airforce Base. This part of the trail is mostly flat, and crushed granite,  running along the top of the levee –  a perfect surface for a cyclocross bike pulling 50lbs+ of trailer and kiddo.

We started to head back towards our house and were just coming out of Trinity Park when we heard it – the train whistle. Then we saw it – the Forest Park Miniature Train. Instantly Grant shouted, “Daddy! The train! Hurry, let’s catch it!” I didn’t have my PowerTap on my cross bike, but I’m guessing I was putting our 500 watts for the next minute and broke all previous efforts. We caught up to the train and rode beside it for a short distance. The people on the train (literally just a few feet away) started waving at us. I looked back at Grant and he was in awe. I told him to wave back and he instantly got this huge smile on his face and started waving like crazy to the folks on the train. He was like a little rockstar for 10 seconds. Then I asked him, “Do you want to beat the train?”

“Yes Daddy. Let’s go FAST!”

Trinity Park Train

So I pegged it and managed to get us to the bridge for the train in time to snap the picture above. Grant was so excited to finally “catch the train”. I realized we had been out for almost 2.5 hours, so I started to head home. Grant actually started crying because he wanted to keep riding. However, it was getting very hot and I knew we should get back. Luckily, when we pulled up to the house we saw my Sister’s van. The Rosslers had stopped for a visit. This instantly dried Grant’s tears since he adores his cousins Hannah and Jack.

They played outside for a few hours and had a great time.

What could have been a crappy weekend turned into a great weekend. The 3 hours Grant and I spent on the bike was probably the most fun I’ve had on the bike in a long time. Made me realize that it’s time to change up my training/racing for a while. I’m not having fun on the road right now (plus all the races that suit my abilitities have already passed) so I’m going to do one of three things:

  1. Start doing some time trialing. Maybe in time for the State Championships in Aug., but definitley in time for the Texas Time Trials in Sept.
  2. Focus on cyclocross skills and really get ready for cross season in the fall
  3. Get a mountainbike and do some MTB racing

It has kind of come full circle. I got into road racing because I didn’t get into the lottery for the Leadville 100 in 2007. I’m the type of person that needs some physical/athletic goal, so when I didn’t get into Leadville, I decided to try my hand at road racing. Now that I have raced on the road for a year, I’m a little burned out and I feel myself drawn to the dirt again (cross or MTB). However, MTB racing or time trials would require a new bike purchase . . . so we’ll see

Bicycle racing . . . best advice ever

Wood bike race

I just read one of the best post I’ve ever read on amateur bicycle racing at BikeSnobNYC. For those of us who race (and have ever “sprinted” for any place outside of the Top-20), you’ll understand the truth in his message. For those of you thinking about racing, it’s a great read to “manage expectations” (albeit in a humorous way).

Ouch!

taco'ed wheel

So this weekend’s racing did not go as I had planned. Saturday’s race was perfect. I felt really good and worked for my teammate Brian who took the win. Sunday’s race in Mineral Wells is the race I had been waiting and training for. Two weeks ago I did an insane workout and pre-rode the course with some teammates and this week I really rested well so I would be on a full tank of gas. The Sunday race was 62 miles and featured the longest climb in N. Texas (Cherry Pie Hill) at the end. I really felt prepared for a Top-5 placing. That all changed around mile 16.

Just after we made a turn on to Highway 180, cruising along (my PT says we were doing 27 mph), the guy in front of me (a large guy, probably 220 lbs) suddenly went down at a 90 degree angle. I tried to get around him and almost did, but he kept sliding and I plowed right into him. As you can see from the picture above, my front wheel taco’ed and I basically landed on my head/face. The race officials were amazing and on the scene in a matter of seconds. I never lost consciousness and was really more upset about not getting to finish the race then anything else. It was only later when I surveyed the damage to my bike and myself that I feel very fortunate . . . it could have been much worse

trashed handlebar

Damage to bike:

  • Front wheel destroyed
  • Frame cracked
  • Handlebar cracked and tape shredded
  • Fork cracked
  • Shifters dented and cracked
  • Rear derailer trashed

Damage to Ben:

  • Road rash everywhere (elbows, back, knees, hands, shoulder)
  • No more fingertips on four fingers
  • Helmet burns on my forehead (helmet cracked as designed – thanks Bell!)
  • 15 stitches in my chin and lip
  • black eye
  • sore/dislocated jaw

I will be off the bike for a while to heal and figure out what to do about my road bike (luckily I have a cyclocross bike to ride for a while). The only expensive part on my bike not damaged was my PowerTap – for which I am grateful. Unfortunately, I will now miss Fort Davis and the Joe Martin stage race in Arkansas (both races with lots of climbing that would have suited me well). Time to re-think my goals for the rest of the year.

A big thanks to a few folks.

  • Andy, the race promoter, for giving me a ride back to the start/finish and giving me a good pep talk on the way there.
  • Katie (my teammate Brian’s wife) for cleaning up my wounds (luckily she is a nurse)
  • Brian, for getting me back to FW in record time.
  • The Doc for stitching me up – maybe my modeling career isn’t over ;)
  • My Moritz teammates for emailing or calling to check on me.

It’s times like this I appreciate how close-knit the Texas racing community is and how grateful I am to have some really great teammates.
trashed hb

Lago Vista Race Report

Photo courtesy of nathanscottphoto.com

 Mortiz Chevrolet Cycling had a great weekend in Lago Vista racing La Primavera I&II. Here’s the breakdown:

Saturday

1st, 13th and 17th in the Cat 3 race.

3rd and 16th in the Cat 4 race.

1st and 17th in the Men’s 45+ race.

Sunday

4th in the Cat 3 race.

12th and 13th in the Cat 4 race.

5th and 9th in the Men’s 45+ race.

Overall, a great weekend. Big props to Scott for his win in the Cat 3 race. Scott broke his arm in a crash at New Braunfels a month ago, but he didn’t let it slow down his training. His breakaway with two laps remaining in the race was pretty impressive.

Lago Vista Profile

As you can see from the profile above, the race was a 4 or 5 mile loop (depending on the day) with essentially a long gradual climb followed by a fast decent to a little power climb finish. The course suited me well and I did OK. Saturday I burned a few matches going on a couple breaks – almost got one to stick. Finished with the pack at 39th (we had 100 starters both days).

Sunday was a race of attrition. A stiff wind kicked up that was essentially a crosswind for most of the course. Brian and Thomas set a fast tempo to start the race and the speed never let up. We averaged 23 mph over the 40 miles on both days, but Sunday’s speed is much more impressive considering the wind. New teammate Camillo got 3rd on Saturday and is a good climber, so he and I decided to try to get something going with about 2 laps-to-go. I went off the front on the first climb of the second-to-last lap and opened up a pretty good gap. Camillo bridged up with another rider. However, the other rider was pretty baked, or not interested in working together because Camillo and I did all the pulling. After several rotations we realized we couldn’t hold off the field with just the two of us pulling, so Camillo and I sat-up to wait for the pack.

On the last lap Thomas did a great job of “escorting” me to the front of the field so I would be in good position for the finish. For the first time all weekend I had a pretty good line on the finishing climb and was able to sprint past a few guys for 12th. We started with 100 guys on Sunday, but only 50 finished and only 25 finished in the front group (other guys came in anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes behind). Like I said, with the wind, climbs and speed, it was definitely a race of attrition.

I definitely feel like I have a better “sense” of the race now and I’m learning to conserve my energy. I’m doing the Jesuit Ranger Round-Up race in Celina Sunday (it raises money for the North Texas High School Cycling League).  It is a Cat 4/5 race of 45 miles (rolling hills course). Most of the Moritz Cat 4s will be there, so hopefully we can do well. After this I’m taking a couple weekends off from racing to accomplish a few things:

  • Get some long training rides in (with lots of climbing) in preparation for the Minerals Wells races and Fort Davis.
  • Celebrate Grant’s birthday (hard to imagine he is 3).
  • Have a baby! That’s right - our baby girl is due on March 28th.

I would really like to get a good result before the baby comes, because I have a feeling my structured training days might be over for a while.

Walburg/Pace Bend Race Report

Pace Bend Cat 4 Race

 So this past weekend Jess and Grant joined me for a trip south to compete in two Texas Cup RacesWalburg and Pace Bend.  Both races are within 45 minutes of Austin, so we decided to make a “family weekend” out of it (probably our last family trip before the new baby arrives).

We headed down early Friday for packet pick-up in Austin. Registration was a breeze and we grabbed dinner at the flagship Whole Foods on Lamar. Then we headed to our hotel in Georgetown, which was only 15 minutes from the start of Saturday’s race in the small, German town of Walburg, TX. The Walburg race is the first “big” race on the Texas cycling calendar and is historically known for really bad weather – rain, freezing temps and strong winds. Last year the winds were 50+ mph and racers were literally “blown off the road”. Luckily the weather was in the 50s and sunny, so it was perfect racing weather.

The race on Saturday went “OK”. It was the first time I had an opportunity to race with some Moritz teammates (Brian and Thomas).  I basically had horrible position all race (narrow roads and 100 riders will do that) so I had no chance to compete in the final uphill sprint, but I finished with the pack. Brian did great and took 8th. It was really great to have Jess and Grant there cheering me on at the finish. I finished 39th, but felt like I came in 1st.

After the race we headed for our new hotel for Saturday night – The Lakeway Resort on Lake Travis. I got a really good deal on the rate and it put us only 30 minutes from Sunday’s race at Pace Bend (which was key since my race started at 8 a.m.). After checking in we headed to an early dinner at The Oasis on Lake Travis.

Mommy and Grant at The Oasis on Lake Travis 

As you can tell from the pic above, Grant had a great time at The Oasis. The area around Lake Travis really is beautiful (with all the elevation change, it really feels more like California) and The Oasis is a must stop for anyone that has never been before. The views at sunset are pretty spectacular.

Sunday’s race went a little better. We had a full field of 100 riders again, but this course suited me better with a few short hills. I felt good the whole race and tried to get a few things going – chased down a break, attacked and got a 3-man break going that didn’t last long and then attacked again solo on the last lap (which didn’t stick). I decided to wait and make one more move on the last hill before the final turn and downhill finish, but got stuck behind several slower riders and wasn’t able to accelerate on the final climb. I ended up finishing 35th. Our average speed for the 44 mile race was 23.7 mph, but it never really felt that fast; the course just had a really good “flow” to it. My normalized power for the race was 250 watts and my peak 60 minutes was 263 watts. 263 is higher than the FTP I’ve had in my training plan, so it looks like my training is working; therefore, I adjusted it up to 260 watts in my Training Peaks software.

Daddy and Grant

Grant had fun, Mommy had fun and Daddy got to test out his early-season-legs. All-in-all a great weekend.

Let Levi Ride

LetLeviRide.com 

Most cycling fans know who Levi Leipheimer is, but I’ll give his bio for the benefit of those of you that aren’t cycling enthusiasts. Levi is an American professional road bicycle racer who currently rides for Team Astana (last year Levi rode for the now defunct Discovery Channel team).  He is arguable the greatest American cyclist today with a  1st overall in the 2007 Tour of California (winning the Prologue and Stage 5 time trials), 1st overall in the 2006 Dauphiné Libéré, 1st overall in the 2005 Deutschland Tour, 3rd overall in the 2001 Vuelta a España, and three top-ten finishes in the Tour de France general classification, including 3rd overall in the 2007 race. He is also the reigning USA National Road Race champion, finishing 1:11 seconds ahead of Discovery team mate and defending U.S. champion George Hincapie. However, he is not being allowed to compete in several top races this year – including the Tour de France.

On February 13th, the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) barred Team Astana from competing in any race or event organized by the ASO in 2008. The ASO owns premiere cycling events like Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Tours, and the famed Tour de France. The ASO cited the doping scandals of last year’s Tour de France as justification. The politics of professional cycling are confusing (even for those of us that follow it closely), but this decision

Astana is a totally new team in 2008. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the name. The entire organizational structure has been rebuilt under the direction of the team’s new General Manager, Johan Bruyneel, who basically cleaned house (bringing over many former Discovery Channel riders). In addition, Astana has adopted the rigorous doping controls developed by anti-doping expert Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard, and Astana now spends more money on anti-doping controls than any other team in the pro peloton.

By barring the entire team from competing in ASO events, outstanding athletes like Levi Leipheimer, who was not a member of last year’s Astana team and who has never been implicated in any doping affair, are forced to sit on the sidelines while their life’s work passes them by.

I had the opportunity to have dinner and ride with Levi last year. He is a genuinely nice guy that is totally passionate about cycling. As he talked about the Tour de France, it was clear that he loves the event and would like to have another chance to win it after coming so close. I’d rather not see politics get in the way of him having that chance, so you can support his cause by signing the petition here. I think the Tour de France this year would be a less compelling race without him.